Difference between Input and Output Devices

A computer system is a combination of several hardware devices or components. When all the components are connected and the appropriate software is installed, it combined forms a computer. However, to interact with computer systems, we generally use input and output devices. Both of these have an important role in the functionality of a computer system and there are significant differences between input and output devices.

Difference between Input and Output Devices

Before we compare input and output devices of a computer, let us first understand both with their brief definitions:

What is an Input Device?

An input device is a hardware component connected to a computer that accepts data/instructions by the user and turns it into a pattern of electrical signals in binary code understandable to the computer. An input device cannot receive data from another device. However, it can transmit data to another device. An input device is a user-controlled device with complex coding. 
Input Device
The computer can be programmed with some predefined code to operate itself; but, we will not be able to feed the data in real-time. With input devices, users can feed data in real-time to perform more advanced operations.

What is an Output Device?

An output device is a hardware component connected to a computer that converts the computer's received digital signal into a form understandable to users. Technically, it provides the result of processing or processed data. An output device is a computer controllable device and is known to receive data from other devices to generate output.
Output Device
The computer can work without an output device; however, we will not be able to display the results to be sure whether the processing of the data is going in the right direction. Output devices are technically the opposite of input devices.

Input Devices Vs Output Devices: Key Differences

Let us list down some of the major differences between input and output devices:

An input device is a hardware device that is used to deliver data to a computer for processing, whereas an output device is a hardware device that is used to receive data from a computer to obtain results for the users.

The user can control the input devices accordingly. In contrast, the output devices are controlled by the computer’s processor itself.

Input devices have a complex design as compared to output devices.

Input devices mainly convert user-friendly instructions into machine-friendly language. On the other hand, output devices mainly convert the instruction of the machine into a user-friendly form.

The most common input devices include a mouse, keyboard, microphone, and webcam. In contrast, the most common output devices include a monitor, printer, and speakers. 

Difference between Input and Output Devices (www.tutorialsmate.com)

Difference Between Input and Output Devices

Let’s discuss the differences between Input and Output devices side by side with the help of the following comparison chart (in a tabular form):

Input Device Output Device
An input device is connected to the computer to feed data from the user to the computer. An output device is connected to a computer to provide data from the computer to the user.
The input device is controlled by the user. The output device is controlled by the computer (specifically the CPU).
Input devices translate user-friendly inputs into machine-understandable inputs. Output devices translate machine-friendly outputs into user-understandable outputs.
An input device helps to enter data or instructions to be processed by the computer. An output device generates results from the processed data to provide the desired result to the user.
The design or coding of input devices is more complex. This is because an input device ensures that the user can interact with the computer properly. The design or coding of output devices is less complex. This is because output devices only display results and do not require them to learn the procedures.
An input device is necessary for the computer to receive user commands or to receive data to be processed by the processor. An output device is necessary for a computer to share its results and to prompt users for more information or commands.
An input device can generally transmit data to other devices. However, it usually does not accept data from other devices. An output device can accept data from other devices and further process the data accordingly. However, it usually does not transmit data to other devices.
The most common examples of input devices are mouse, keyboard, microphone, trackball, trackpad/touchpad, joystick, scanner, etc. The most common examples of output devices are monitors, printers, plotters, projectors, speakers, headphones, etc.

What is the main difference between input and output devices?

The fundamental difference between input and output devices is that the input devices are connected to the computer to send user data to the computer, whereas the output devices receive the data coming from the computer and display it to the users in their understandable form. In short, the data sent by the input device to the computer for processing is reproduced or displayed by the output device.

Understanding Input and Output Devices with an Example

There are many examples of both input and output devices. However, we have discussed some of the most common ones.

Input Devices

Keyboard & Mouse: These are the primary input devices used to feed data to the computer. The keyboard consists of several keys that help to input alphabet letters, numbers, signs, and other information. The mouse works like a point-and-click device, which helps to move the cursor and select specific objects on the computer.

Mic: Mic, short for a microphone, is another common input device that accepts voice data. It typically receives voice input and converts analog sound waves into electrical signals, which are then digitized into a form that can be stored on a computer.

Webcam: Webcam is an input device that takes images/videos as input and converts them into digital form. Unlike digital cameras, webcams cannot operate on their own. They require a computer system to work and save the captured data. Modern computers and laptops come with webcams pre-installed.

Output Devices

Monitor: Monitor can be defined as the primary output device of a computer. Although it consists of many components, the screen is its main part. The monitor takes data from the computer and displays it on the screen in the form of pixels using the video card.

Printer: A printer is a common output device that helps in making prints (Xerox) of the data received from the computer. It takes electronic data from the computer and creates a hard copy of it on paper. Modern printers can print color text as well as graphics.

Speakers: Speakers help produce sound output. They receive signals from the computer's sound card and convert them into audio that the user can understand. Modern computers and laptops usually have inbuilt speakers.

Note: It is important to note that some devices work as both input and output devices (input/output devices).  They can accept input as well as produce the output. For example, touch screen, digital camera, pen drive, CD/DVD drive, modem, headset with mic, etc.

Difference between Input and Output Devices

The above image displays some input devices, some output devices, and some input-output devices.


The above article differentiates the input device from the output device. Generally, both the input and output devices are opposite to each other. An input device sends the information received by the users to the computer system for processing. On the other hand, an output device reproduces or displays the results of processing by the computer system to the users.

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